Groups step out united on world AIDS day

Several groups under the Bali United Against HIV and AIDS  (BUAHA) community on Sunday morning paraded along Kuta Beach to Seminyak Beach in an effort to raise awareness of the disease. Starting from the Hard Rock Cafe Bali, the beach walk ended at the Royal Seminyak Resort. Hundreds of NGO members, expatriates and activists participated in the event to mark World AIDS Day, which falls on Dec. 1. In the evening, a fundraiser was held at the resort to support people living with HIV/AIDS.

Every group walked in their own unique outfits — from Power Ranger costumes to traditional Balinese attire — while others carried banners with messages to support people living with HIV/AIDS (ODHA). Organizing committee member Tono Permana said the event was the first in Bali. He said that BUAHA saw an increasing number of HIV cases and believed that people must understand the disease better. “Many people don’t know they’re infected until they die. This is because society connects HIV and AIDS to morality issues. This is the message we want to convey,” he told Bali Daily on Sunday.

Tono explained that HIV should not always be connected to free sex and drugs, as the disease was also passed on to housewives and children. “Through this fun walk along the beach, we aim to make society understand, but not fear HIV/AIDS. We want to erase the negative stigma faced by infected people,” he said. “Also, they can start checking whether they are infected or not. Meanwhile, those who are infected can start getting support and be more open,” added the Bali Peduli Foundation member.

He hoped that the event would be held annually and expected more support in the coming years. BUAHA is a collection of communities and citizens in Bali concerned with HIV and AIDS issues and are committed to ending the epidemic the island currently faces. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), campaigns for World AIDS Day between 2011-2015 will have the theme Getting to zero: Zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination, zero AIDS-related deaths.

One of the participants, Phillip Lateman, said this event was important to raise people’s awareness of safe sex. “For me it is important that finally Bali is acknowledging World AIDS Day. I think today is the first time that we’re actually getting together as a community,” the Australian, who has been living on the island for 20 years, said. “This year was the first time we decided to do a beach walk and just try to, I guess, make some sort of awareness for people. HIV is still alive and causing a lot of deaths each year,” he said.

Similarly, Ikin from Desa Seni arts village, said that the beach walk could show support for those who were infected and so they were not afraid anymore. “To show them [ODHA] that society is with them,” he said. In Seririt, the second largest city in Buleleng, local youths distributed free condoms to passing motorists at a busy intersection. The event was organized by Bubunan village youth association in cooperation with Yayasan Citra Usadha Indonesia, one of the island’s oldest HIV/AIDS NGOs. “We are deeply concerned that the number of HIV/AIDS cases keeps increasing,” youth association head Gde Eka Sanjaya said. As of October 2013, the number of ODHA in Buleleng had reached 1,893.

source : bali daily

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